Will 2017 Be the Year Drones Become a Facility Best Friend? Part 2 – Indoors

Last week, Maxwell Stephens took a look at how drones will become more and more useful in facilities management in 2017.

We examined how drones could be used to reach hard-to-access places at a very low cost. Certainly lower than getting a cherrypicker or a scaffolding firm in. We all know that these two options have particular health and safety ramifications when chosen for the most difficult of jobs.

Drones could even be set monthly flight paths. This feature allows FM staff to compare the same features month by month to see if there is a problem and if there is, how quickly the area is deteriorating.

Facilities management teams are beginning to see the possibilities for drone use in a building’s interior.

The first educational session on using drones in retail facility maintenance took place last year in America, backed by the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association. Called “Using Drones in Facilities Maintenance – a New Era”, it sought to change minds about drone and drone usage in general.

Speaking to the Scottsdale Independent newspaper, Josh Pola, chief operating officer of Springwise Facility Management, was gushing about the potential new interior deployment capabilities of drones – “Drones prepare to take flight in retail facility management, Sep 8th, 2015”

Mr Pola said, “Drones have earned a bad reputation, due to highly publicized incidents involving commercial aircraft or flying in restricted air space. However, drones have the ability to save retail facility professionals a lot of time and thousands of dollars.”

For example, “they can…detect roof leaks before they can damage the interior of a retail store or distribution centre.”

By using a drone indoors, as Mr Pola stated, FM staff see the problem straight away. If you’re in FM in the retail sector, traditional methods of internal building inspection will require that a health and safety risk assessment is carried out and that access to any part of the sales floor space where work is taking place may need to be denied from members of the public and staff.

The standard method not only can cost more money to have a problem diagnosed, it can also hit a retailer’s pocket by shutting off floorspace to the public.

As mentioned in the last article, drones can also be used in lift shafts, dry risers, vents and many other areas. One big concern for many FM professionals in adopting drone technology for indoor use has been safety. For many years, the advice was not to use drones indoors. Now, as long as the drone you’re operating is right for the conditions, experts see many upsides and few downsides.

The main advice given is to get everyone out of an area where a drone is being used indoors except for the operator. Many drones have adjustable flight controls that can be altered for use inside. Valuable equipment should also be removed from an area where indoor drone activity is taking place.

We found this video when we did the research for the first article and have been really excited about showing it to you. This is actual footage of what an indoor drone can do and the type of access you can get.

It’s a video by drone services provider, Air Capital Drone Co. (AC/DC), part of Wichita-based Hydraulic Studio.

Speaking to 365wichita.com, company representative Peter Espinosa said, “Using the drone indoors gives you the ability to see your building, warehouse or facility from an aerial viewpoint…When flying indoors, we have to use a setting called Atti (Attitude) mode, which can be a benefit for the pilot as well, because it gives the pilot complete control of the copter.”

The article mentions the other main advantage of indoor drone use – protection from the elements including rain, snow, hail, and the biggest problem, wind.

This is certainly something we’ll be coming back to time and again at Maxwell Stephens. If you have any areas of technology in FM you’d like us to blog about, please get in touch and we’ll have a good look at it.

Peter Forshaw – Managing Director – Maxwell Stephens